Guwahati, Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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Dust pollution posing serious health hazard
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, April 11 – Dust pollution continues to pose a serious health hazard in the city, not to mention the inconveniences it causes to the citizens. The busy city roads in particular are the worst affected where dust particles – together with vehicular emissions – form a toxic haze that puts a veil on the atmosphere for a long time. The situation vis-a-vis dust pollution has deteriorated in recent years with the spurt in construction activities. Periodical monitoring of the city’s ambient air quality by the Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA) reveals both respirable particulate matter (RPM) and suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air to be on the higher side, often crossing the permissible limits.

The permissible limit for SPM and RPM is 200 micrograms per metre cubic and 100 micrograms per metre cubic respectively.

A major factor behind the dust pollution has been the degradation of the city hills causing accumulation of loose soil on the roads following rain. The perennial problem of water-logging leaves a thick layer of slush on roads and by-lanes once the water level recedes – something that finally gets transformed into finer dust particles.

Another offender happens to be the trucks carrying earth and sand on and around the city roads which are often driven at break-neck speed and which never put a cover on the materials carried. This has been adding to the growing magnitude of dust pollution. Growing construction activities following the boom in real estate is further aggravating the situation. They too are often found to be violating the relevant norms for checking dust pollution.

This apart, the failure of the authorities concerned, especially the district administration, to enforce the norms meant for checking dust pollution, including those aimed at checking growing vehicular pollution, is having a worsening impact on the city’s dust pollution.

A PCBA official said that the phenomenon of dust pollution was a matter of concern, particularly because it was an increasing trend. The city’s air quality is monitored by six monitoring stations located at Bamunimaidam, Santipur, Gopinath Nagar, Khanapara, Gauhati University campus, and Boragaon.

The official attributed the dust pollution to several factors including the city’s topography surrounded by hills, and said that dust pollution normally showed a rising trend during the winter as there is less rainfall to clean the atmosphere. He said that the trend tended to increase during the period from November to March, showing higher presence of SPM and RPM in the air.

Besides monitoring, the PCBA’ recommends measures to the offenders for reducing air pollution. “We ask the Guwahati Refinery to maintain fuel quality and also arrange free pollution check-ups for vehicles. For checking vehicular pollution and enforcing the related laws and norms, the administration and the Transport Department should display greater commitment,” the official said, adding that the PCBA had a 21-point action plan for reducing vehicular pollution in the city.

This apart, the haphazard urbanisation process that cares little about maintaining even the basic norms of checking dust pollution during construction is another factor aggravating the situation. The public had to endure a harrowing time during the construction of all the flyovers in the city in the past few years with serious dust pollution affecting the construction sites as well as the nearby areas. Dumping of construction materials including sand, stones, cement, in the open without adequate cover is typical of any construction activity in the city. The ongoing boom in real estate in the city has pushed the dust pollution to alarming levels.

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